REWIND: Relive President Biden’s inauguration by listening to its music

New Radicals, Gregg Alexander, Joe Biden, inauguration

In this screengrab, Gregg Alexander of the New Radicals performs during the Virtual Parade Across America, following the presidential inauguration of Joe Biden, on Jan. 20, 2021. Courtesy: Biden Inaugural Committee.

Is it just me or are you in a better mood this weekend?

It’s pretty amazing how much four years of constant fear and stress wears on you, isn’t it? You never really realize until it’s gone. Four long years of never knowing if you would wake up to find that the President of the United States started a nuclear war from the White House toilet with a tweet about something he saw on TV, and suddenly the weight is off our shoulders.

Granted, we still have the stress of this whole plague thing, and Republicans are still trying to subvert democracy, and everything is still an absolute mess, but that’s one heck of a burden we got to stop carrying all at once.

Playing to that, Inauguration Day was full of optimistic, inspirational songs from A-list stars, as well as some with special meaning to President Biden himself. (I’m still not tired of typing “President Biden.”) So let’s relive that wonderful Wednesday with the original versions of some of the classics that were performed throughout the day.

Woody Guthrie — “This Land is Your Land”

When Jennifer Lopez sang this I’m not sure most people realized why it was chosen. This is a patriotic song, yes, but it’s a patriotic protest song.

Folk and country were the punk music of Guthrie’s day. They were the angry, outspoken music of the people. They were critical of the government, critical of society, and almost always supported working people and income equality. Woody Guthrie has a lot more in common with Bernie Sanders than Toby Keith.

For example, the original final verse of this song goes as follows: “In the squares of the city, In the shadow of a steeple/ By the relief office, I’d seen my people/ As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking/ Is this land made for you and me?”

When Jennifer Lopez sang the song during the Inauguration, I was really hoping she’d include that verse. Instead she quoted her own song “Let’s Get Loud,” which… is not the same.

New Radicals — “You Get What You Give”

This one actually warmed my cold, black heart, so even though it’s not a cover I had to include it.

“You Get What You Give” was a favorite of President Biden’s late son Beau, and it became something of a family anthem in his honor. The band, despite breaking up 22 years ago, said they would reunite to perform the song if Biden won… and, fortunately, President Biden won. So they did. They performed it during the virtual parade.

My favorite part? Frontman Gregg Alexander still had the green bucket hat from this video and he wore it during the performance.

Bill Withers — “Lovely Day”

The first song of the primetime “Celebrating America” show was actually Jon Bon Jovi doing “Here Comes The Sun” by the Beatles. We’re skipping that one for two reasons.

First, I just included that in my optimistic celebratory column that 2020 was over. The one that was followed almost immediately by a violent attempt to overthrow Congress. But it is better now, slightly! The terrorist uprising didn’t succeed that time!

Second, Bon Jovi was not good. He sounded oddly like a Muppet.

Anyway, instead we’re starting with “Lovely Day,” which Demi Lovato did a great job performing. I love the song but she did an amazing job with it! I don’t dislike her, but I’m also not a huge fan, so I was a little surprised how much I enjoyed it. Even though she sang the song in the Holodeck and it was a little weird.

Tim McGraw and Tyler Hubbard — “Undivided”

Since I’m not using “Here Comes the Sun,” I need to backfill so, God help me, I’m using a new song. Don’t worry, it’ll pass soon.

If I’m going to be breaking character I might as well go all out and also include a country song, right? A modern one anyway, from the era after it stopped being cool and started being jingoistic nonsense. But this one gets a pass because McGraw and Hubbard are country singers who publicly express moderate or liberal views.

How said is it that these two guys got backlash for performing a song about coming together during a Presidential Inauguration? And not because the incoming President expressed profoundly racist sentiments or admitted to sexual assault, but because he was—GASP!—a Democrat. A decent, church-going man who happens to be a Democrat.

Nina Simone — “Feeling Good”

Remember how I skipped a Beatles song because I just included it three weeks ago? I included this, too, and I’m including it again. If you have a chance to listen to Nina Simone you don’t turn it down.

I also have to include this because the John Legend version from the Inaugural festivities was nearly as good. And “nearly as good as Nina Simone” is the highest compliment you can give a singer! But only because “nearly as good as Aretha” is impossible.

As my mom pointed out to me on Wednesday, how must it feel to be Trump? He couldn’t get anyone to play his inauguration but Biden gets the sort of A-list stars Trump dreams of hanging out with. Not only that, but they’re performing songs like “Feeling Good” and “Lovely Day” about how happy and relieved they are!

The whole show was a 90 minute party celebrating Trump leaving, and he knew it was happening! I’m not sure many people in the world have experienced that magnitude of insult. Even for a psychotic narcissist like Trump, that has to hurt. It has to hurt bad. It has to hurt in his very soul.

And I’m feeling good.

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